The Federal Government manages almost thirty percent of the land in the United States.
Contrary to the unease that the previous statement incites, federal lands are for the American
people, not any particular group, figure, or state. America's public lands are a grand idea that are
subject to a complicated set of problems, ranging from political predators, uninformed guests, and
rising visitation levels.
While it is true that public lands are labeled as "federal land", they're open for use and recreation by everyone. Politicians and lobbyists use this misconception to demonize federal land as "government land grabs", scaring a vocal few into opposing land that, in reality, belongs to them. State level politicians vie over lands on a platform of states' rights, although land owned by states is repeatedly sold to private ownership. To date, 70% of the public trust land placed under state ownership has been sold to the highest bidder. This conversion, purchasing, and developing of once public land demands crucial transparency between politicians and their constituents. Without this transparency, we will unknowingly back politicians that aim to take what belongs to us, our children, and our grandchildren, so that themselves and lobbyists may profit. Land stands to benefit more people if left under federal management, rather than state ownership.
Many federal lands hold remnants of history and cultures that are long gone. They contain wildlife and geology that can be found nowhere else in the world. Several of these lands have been protected via honors of Monument or National Park declaration, while others wait, naked to the cruelty of ignorant guests. Without a proper means of regulating and monitoring guests, these fragile areas can be forever marred. The latest example of this destruction is Bear's Ears in Southeast Utah, our newest monument.
Bears Ears is home to some of the most archaelogical dense areas in the world. The arid
conditions of Utah have helped preserve elaborate Native American dwellings and artwork, some of
which are well over 1,000 years old. Until the National Monument designation, these sites were unregulated and open to the public, which is an amazing responsibility, but not everyone shows the respect these areas deserve. The looting and desecration that these fragile areas endure are cumulative, and the end result will surely be mediocrity if they are not protected. Federal lands alone are managed by a proportional government agency (Bureau of Land Management, United States Forest Service, etc.), but National Monuments can have special committees that help in the management and planning for the monument. In this case, appointed chiefs are representing various Native American tribes in a committee that works with the BLM and USFS to help delegate and govern the best methods and policies for protection of these spiritually significant lands.
Another startling aspect that adds to the dire need for protection in Bears Ears is the
rising levels of visitation the area endures. Visitation rates for the monument have been rising sharply since 2005, with no signs of slowing down. Bears Ears does not currently have the manpower or the funding to adequately manage the high number of visitors. Once the infrastructure of the new National Monument is in place, these sensitive sites will have much more protection from looting and vandalism. A visitor center or museum, to educate visitors on the area and how to visit it with respect, more rangers and public facilities such as bathrooms day-use areas are only possibilities with the funding that comes along with the national monument designation.